Newtown board requests armed guards for elementary schools

February 1, 2013

The school board in Newtown, Conn., voted unanimously Thursday night to request an armed guard for each of the district’s four elementary schools.

The armed “security resource officers,” or SROs, operate in the district’s high school and middle schools. According to the school board, the minutes of whose meeting are available online, there has been wide support for adding the officers to elementary schools since the tragic Sandy Hook shooting almost two months ago.

The only remaining barrier appears to be financial: SROs are police officers, and their salaries come out of the police budget, board members explained. The board of selectman and the board of finance still need to approve the school board’s request before police appear in schools.

At the meeting, after board member Richard Gaines read the motion, another board member asked for clarification: “Does this put an officer in each of our schools?” He said. Then: “Is that enough?”

Later, the co-presidents of the Head O’ Meadow parent-teacher association read resolutions passed unanimously by their PTA that urge the board to add more funding for security in general and SROs specifically.

“They’re definitely behind what you did,” co-president Laura Tierney said, emotionally, about the request for SROs. “Thank you.”

The vote comes at a time when there is an ongoing public debate about school security in which Newtown has been evoked time and time again.

In a Dec. 21 address, National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre advocated for armed guards in schools, arguing that “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

But there was some outrage about his remarks, including from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, who both panned LaPierre’s speech. The day before, Bloomberg had criticized the NRA on ABC’s “Nightline,” even suggesting that the shooting in “Connecticut is because of some of their actions.”

In Maryland, a state budget meeting turned tense Jan. 23 when state Comptroller Peter Franchot accused Montgomery County Schools Superintendent Joshua P. Starr of playing “roulette” with school safety by opposing armed guards.

But in Newtown, the argument wasn’t whether to have armed guards, but rather if schools should have one guards or two. One father initiated a long debate on that topic about 30 minutes into the meeting.

“We’re very carefully studying what are the best practices for our schools based on what other communities have done,” Chairwoman Debbie Leidlein finally cut in.

“Very good, thank you,” the father said. “Let’s protect our kids to the highest level we can.”

Caitlin Dewey runs The Intersect blog, writing about digital and Internet culture. Before joining the Post, she was an associate online editor at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.
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